FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. (WDTV) - The West Virginia State Wildlife Center in French Creek is a modern zoological facility that houses wildlife that's either native or has been introduced to the state, as well as species that have been driven out of the state over time.
A small herd of elk graze in their pen.
The center relies on the work of many people, including wildlife biologist Tyler Evans. Evans plays a crucial role in keeping the animals safe and healthy.
"I oversee the facility, do grounds-maintenance, and all other day-to-day operations," Evans said.
He continued, "There's definitely an emphasis in understanding [animal] behaviors, especially as they pertain to the wild setting."
The Ohio native attended West Virginia University and went to graduate school, before eventually becoming the center's biologist.
"Growing up i spent a lot of time in the outdoors, hunting and fishing; as I got into high school, I realized I wanted to make a career of it. I figured if i wanted to work for 30 or 40 years, i wanted to do something I enjoyed," he said.
One of the most important things Evans does at the center is to work with a vet to make a specialized diet for each animal. All of the animals have to be fed the right amount of food at different times of the day.
"We have 30 different species and they all have different dietary needs," he explained.
The animals have special habitats that allow them to interact with the wild as naturally as possible.
"When you're feeding them everyday, that does take away from it a little bit, but we do like to minimize our contact with them," Evans said.
However, there is one exception: the center's famous groundhog, French Creek Freddie. Freddie spends time with people every February for Groundhog Day and loves to be petted.
Evans says one of his favorite parts of his job is hosting events and tours, where he gets to teach the public about the importance of wildlife conservation.
"At this facility you can see what we had and what we currently have, and it really should instill that feeling that we need to do everything we can to make sure the wildlife resources are here for future generations to enjoy as well," said Evans.